My favourite headline of the year hit the BBC website this evening.
"BBFC changes Paddington 'sex' advice" rumbled the abbreviated version on the Entertainment page, expanding to the slightly more illuminating but still somewhat alarming "Paddington film: BBFC changes advice about 'sex references'" once you clicked through onto the link.
Once you've got past the headline (which is actually made even more entertaining by the picture of the bear himself looking a little bewildered underneath it - even if he seems to now resemble a hedgehog rather more than he did previously) the article itself explains how the BBFC originally listed 'mild sex references' in the parental advice for the new Paddington Bear movie, but now they've changed their minds and the bear-related filth is in fact merely 'innuendo'.
I love the idea that maybe, just maybe, the alleged sex references were an addition after an early table read. That the cast read through the script in full, doing all the cute animal voices and everything, right through to the no-doubt feelgood ending where that loveable bear learns an important lesson about life.
And that maybe, after the read-through was finished and just as the warm ripples of applause died away, one lone voice muttered "Yeah, but it's not very sexy, is it?"
In one of the strangest coincidences of all time, I had actually spent this very afternoon making weak jokes to a friend about how the new version of Paddington Bear was edgier, darker and, yes, sexier than previous versions. Turns out I was right. Actually, the full advice now reads "dangerous behaviour, mild threat, innuendo, infrequent mild bad language" which makes it sound like James Bond.
Sudden explosions of innuendo or unexpectedly grown-up bits in films aimed at kids can be vaguely disconcerting for the unsuspecting parent. Not offensive exactly, but jarring. The kids themselves just filter it out, of course; they're extremely literal creatures, and if they don't understand something, it doesn't exist in their universe. I badgered my poor parents into taking me to see Flash Gordon at least three times at the cinema when I was six, and it was only revisiting the movie a couple of decades later that I realised that, gosh, it really does have an awful lot of weird sex stuff in it. Seriously, go back and check it out. The subplot about Ming's sex potions isn't even the most awkward thing in it.
None of this, of course, is equal to the moment when the seagull tells the rabbit to 'piss off' in Watership Down. You know, the bit when entire families stopped munching their popcorn to stare in disbelief at the telly ("What did that seagull say, Mummy?")
Or, for that matter, the bit in E.T. when Elliott calls Michael 'penis breath'. I asked my Mum about that one, too (Jesus, it's a miracle that she kept taking me to the cinema, really) and she replied;
"I think he said peanut brain"
Which clearly demonstrates that my Mum is a quicker thinker than I shall ever be.
So Paddington has now joined the honourable line-up of movies which are aimed at kids, but have a near-the-knuckle line or two of dialogue thrown in just to wake the parents up. It's not a huge deal, and if it wasn't for the incongruity of including the words 'sex' and 'Paddington Bear' in the same headline, everyone (including me) would no doubt have just ignored it.
But are the tabloids going to resist the apparently irresistible 'Paddington Bare' headline? I seriously doubt it.
I barely managed it myself.Suggest a correction